State trooper involved in shooting of assault suspect identified
BELLOWS FALLS — Before being shot at by a Vermont State Trooper and grazed by a bullet, John-Victor Wetherby, 33, of Bellows Falls, pointed a firearm at a trooper. According to information released Saturday, the trooper fired several shots at Wetherby before he was taken into custody.
Wetherby is being held without bail at Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield on charges of aggravated assault and violation of probation arising from a 2018 conviction for reckless endangerment.
The Vermont State Police identified the trooper involved in the early Saturday shooting in Rockingham as Sgt. Eugene Duplissis. He has been a member of the Vermont State Police since July 2001 and is assigned to the Office of Professional Development in Pittsford. Duplissis also is a member of the state police's Tactical Services Unit.
According to Bellows Falls Police Chief Ron Lake, officers responded to Hyde Street at 1 p.m. on Friday for the report of an assault. The victim told police he was visiting a house on Hyde Street to check up on it while the owner is out of town when he was assaulted and stabbed multiple times with a sharp object. The victim also told police that the assailant struck him with what he believed was a baseball bat.
Through a photo lineup, the victim identified Wetherby as his assaulter.
With the help of the Vermont State Police, the Chester Police Department and the Walpole, N.H., Police Department, a search was started. At about 11 p.m. Friday, BFPD's K-9 Caesar alerted to a track in the snow. Officers followed the track for nearly two miles before entering a vacant house at 22 Cota Heights Road in Rockingham. Several members of the TSU, including Duplissis, were still in the area, heard the call and responded to the scene to assist with clearing the house.
Vermont State Police investigators have learned that while in the home, Wetherby came across an antique double-barreled shotgun, armed himself with the weapon and cocked it when he saw police approaching the residence. After the shooting, the shotgun was found to be unloaded.
"We are thankful that the suspect was able to be taken into custody without any further danger or harm to police, to the public, or to the suspect himself," said Col. Matthew T. Birmingham, director of the Vermont State Police.
Wetherby had been wanted by police since March 2, when he allegedly assaulted a Wesminster man. The victim of that assault sustained life-threatening injuries and was transported to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital for treatment. The victim of the assault on Friday was first transported to Springfield Hospital before being taken to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H.
Police believe Wetherby had been hiding out at the home on Hyde Street since at least March 2.
The Bellow Falls Police Department also received assistance from the Bellows Falls Fire Department and Golden Cross Ambulance.
"We would like to thank all the agencies for their help and cooperation," said BFPD Chief Ron Lake.
An investigation into the officer-involved shooting is in its earliest stages by the Vermont State Police Major Crime Unit and Bureau of Criminal Investigations. Per policy, Duplissis has been placed on paid administrative leave for a minimum of five days, and then the trooper will return to work on administrative duty status. The State Police investigation will be independently reviewed by the Vermont Attorney General's Office and the Windham County State's Attorney's Office to determine whether the use of force was appropriate.
The Bellows Falls Police Department is continuing its investigation into the assault on Hyde Street on Friday.
Bob Audette can be contacted at 803-254-2311, ext. 151, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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